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Updated: Church stabbing suspect feared Masonic “conspiracy”

Lawrence Capener, 24, the suspect in a multiple stabbing at an Albuquerque church, makes his first appearance in court via teleconference from jail on Monday, April 29, 2013.
Lawrence Capener, 24, the suspect in a multiple stabbing at an Albuquerque church, makes his first appearance in court via teleconference from jail on Monday, April 29, 2013.
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Update: 4 p.m.

Metropolitan Court Judge Sharon Walton raised the bond for stabbing suspect Lawrence Capener to $250,000 cash or surety, citing “the harm done to the alleged victims” and comments attributed to Capener in a criminal complaint.

According to police, Capener targeted Adam Alvarez, the choir director at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church, whom Capener believed was a Mason and part of a conspiracy.

Police also say Capener told medical staff that “the Freemasons have tapped into the radio waves of the church’s microphones to send out their message.”

The 24-year-old was treated for a cut to his hand before he was booked into jail yesterday.

“Capener stated that the devil was sending a message through the microphone whenever Alvarez sang or spoke,” according to a news release from APD. “He said that he had been attending church at St. Jude’s for the past three months and on Sunday he “had enough” and had to take action.”

Hours before the stabbings, Capener vandalized the Masonic Lodge, 1420 Barbara Loop SE, in Rio Rancho with spray paint, police said. He still had paint on his hands when he was arrested.


Lawrence Capener (MDC)

Lawrence Capener, 24. (MDC)

Update: 1:38 p.m.

Suspect Lawrence Capener, in an interview with police,  apologized for several of the stabbings and said his intended target was the choir leader, Adam Alvarez, according to a criminal complaint filed in court today.

Capener told police he believed Alvarez was a Mason and that he was “fed up with the Masons, and he was going to do something about the `one’ that was in the choir,” the complaint said.

He went on to say that the Masons are “a group of individuals involved in a conspiracy that is more far-reaching than I could or would believe,” according to a criminal complaint filed in court.

Capener told police that he charged the front of the church and stabbed Alvarez as the choir leader’s back was to him. As he stabbed Alvarez again, several people came forward to stop him, the complaint said. He told police he “did not know if they were also Masons, so he decided to stab them as well,” according to the complaint.

Two other victims stabbed in the attack were Greg Aragon, a 43-year-old Albuquerque Fire Department lieutenant, and Gerald Madrid, 53.

Madrid is a well-known local bail bondsman.

Michael Tungate, 37, also was injured while trying to stop the attack.

Update: 11:33 a.m.

Lawrence Capener, 24, of Albuquerque was booked late Sunday on three counts of aggravated battery with great bodily harm. He was ordered held on $75,000 cash or surety bond.

Four parishioners were injured and were listed in stable condition at a nearby hospital.

One of the victims, Adam Alvarez issued a statement Monday morning. “I wanted to let everyone know that their prayers are appreciated and that I am making a good recovery. The doctors are very optimistic, ” Alvarez said. “I will be back at St. Jude Thaddeus as soon as I am fully recovered.”

 

Albuquerque Police Department officers cordon off the entrance to St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church on Sunday after a multiple stabbing. The church is on Paradise Boulevard in Paradise Hills. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Albuquerque Police Department officers cordon off the entrance to St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church on Sunday after a multiple stabbing. The church is on Paradise Boulevard in Paradise Hills. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

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– This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

Elaine Tassy / Journal Staff Writer

St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church parishioners reacted with both shock and support Sunday evening after learning that four members of their congregation were stabbed in what appeared to be a random attack by a lone assailant during the 11 a.m. Mass.

Albuquerque police were interviewing the alleged assailant, Lawrence Capener, 24, who climbed over several pews and attacked the choir director, a choir member and two others. He was in police custody Sunday evening, according to Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Capener will be facing numerous felony charges, Gibbs said.

The four victims were taken to area hospitals and are all in stable condition, according to Melissa Romero, spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Fire Department. Among those stabbed were the church choir director Adam Alvarez, flutist Gerald Madrid and two other parishioners, Gibbs said.

Initially, it was reported that there were six victims, not four — an error attributable to the scene at the church, which Gibbs described as “chaotic.” Immediately after the stabbing, 20 firefighters with eight firetrucks showed up at the church, and at least a dozen police cars were still milling about the church, which had been cordoned off with tape, late in the afternoon.

The incident was initially referred to as a “mass casualty incident” with firefighters and paramedics quickly triaging patients and figuring out who needed hospital care. Paramedics transported two victims to area hospitals, according to Romero, who added that Albuquerque firefighters rode in the ambulance with a third patient. The fourth patient had a family member take him to the hospital, she added.

Additionally, three church members were evaluated by paramedics but didn’t need to go to the hospital, she said.

According to witnesses who spoke with KOAT-TV, the assailant called out “fake preacher!” when he began stabbing choir members.

Choir member Brenda Baca King told KOAT she looked into the assailant’s eyes as he wielded the knife. “I looked up, and I saw a young man with a very scary look in his eyes,” she said. “Fury, anger, hatred. He had a knife and was attacking our soloist, and our flutist tried to protect him and got stabbed also.”

Authorities said members of the congregation, including an Albuquerque firefighter, were able to subdue Capener until police arrived, KOAT reported online.

“I noticed the suspect run up and, basically, start attacking the choir, so I ran over there immediately to go do what I could do to stop it,” witness Sider Esquibel said.

In a brief interview outside the church Sunday about 5 p.m., after having spent time with police investigators inside the church during the afternoon, the Rev. John C. Daniel, who was celebrating the Mass, described the stabbing as “random” and added that nothing like this has happened before at the church.

He had seen Capener in the church before but did not recognize him as a regular parishioner, he said.

As Daniel celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass with Deacon Robert Aragon, the choir director was leading the choir in a meditative song toward the end of the Mass.

Daniel said he didn’t see the attack because he had turned his back away from the congregation in order to return the sacrament in the tabernacle. It was then that Capener allegedly climbed over several rows of pews and used a knife to stab Alvarez, Madrid and two members of the congregation who were among about 50 others who jumped in to try to stop the attack.

Daniel added that he spoke with the mother of the assailant and was left with the impression that Capener was challenged by mental health issues. “There was no connection between the choir director and the assailant,” he added.

One congregant of the church, located in the 5700 block of Paradise Boulevard in Paradise Hills, said the news left her stunned. She could feel her heart racing, after learning the 5 p.m. Mass had been canceled because of the stabbings, she said.

Meanwhile, another pair of parishioners who’d attended the Mass earlier, drove up to Daniel and gave him a bouquet of flowers. “Is everyone OK?” one of them asked.

Daniel told them everyone was in stable condition.

Another churchgoer drove by, waving his fist out the window and calling out, “Father John!”

“I think people allow the best to come out of themselves in challenging times,” said Daniel, “I think we saw that today.”

Journal staff writer Jeff Proctor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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